Rating: 2/5 stars.
I must make a comparison to Sarah Dessen. Sarah Dessen’s books deal with teenaged girls finding their way in the world while fixing some flaw or issue in their lives. Her books are consistently great – so consistently great that some say they are formulaic. I, for one, love Sarah Dessen. Maybe it’s the romance maniac in me, or maybe I just love how she always amazes me with her writing. She’s like that annoying kid in your AP English class who always picks up on the simile or metaphor before you do, and always recognizes the right answer.
Deb Caletti’s books also deal with teenage girls finding their way in the world while fixing flaws and overcoming issues. This is where the similarities between Caletti and Dessen end.
Sure, they’ve both written about abusive relationships (Caletti’s Stay and Dessen’s Dreamland, but their styles are so different. Caletti always surprises me with whatever she comes up with, and her writing, or at least my opinion of her writing, is hit or miss depending on the book. She’s more like that annoying kid in your AP English class who doesn’t always answer questions correctly, but once in a while comes up with some splendid, mind-blowing revelation about a theme or motif or something.
The Story of Us, unfortunately, was a miss.
The story revolves around Cricket, who is spending a week of summer at the beach away from her boyfriend. In addition to her struggle with their relationship, she also needs to handle her mother’s marriage, her conflict with her soon-to-be stepsisters, her sick dog, her grandfather’s big secret, and a new boy she meets named Ash. Clearly, this vacation is not going to be a relaxing one.
Writing wise, I felt that Caletti let it all out in this one – the syntax is convoluted and complex, and there were a myriad of extended metaphors and similes that could have been made more concise. Here’s a paragraph that I marked on my Kindle:
“I let her pass. Something was sinking in my chest. We’ve got a special size of worry for the people we love, somewhere between a mountain range and a small planet. You could wish sometimes that you were the kind of person who didn’t care. Who could see someone hurt and turn on the television or order some new shoes online, thinking only about tan or black, seven or seven and a half. But I wasn’t a person like that. I guess we’d had a lot of troubles. We saw the damage on person could do to another. You got to thinking that a person could be harmed, broken, swept out to sea.”
While I like the message within this quote, it could have been cut down severely. Cricket’s thought process is full of tangents that lead from one thing to another, which sometimes discombobulated me and sometimes bored me. There are nuggets of wisdom hidden in Caletti’s writing, but not enough of them to compensate for the tediousness of getting through it all.
I did not connect to the characters. I feel like Caletti tried too hard to make them and their actions believable – Cricket’s romance with Ash felt especially artificial. Cricket’s letters to Janssen acted as the ultimate “tell, not show” device and there was so much going on in the story that none of it satisfied me by the end. It was like a huge whirlwind of events. I was consumed in all of the craziness, and then when it ended, I didn’t gain anything. I just felt tired, and ready to move on.
I know this review seems horribly negative, but keep in mind that it’s solely my opinion. I’m sure that people who have enjoyed all of Caletti’s books will at least like this one. The ending contained chunks of insight pertaining to the power of words and other major themes. Ultimately, though, I would only recommend this book to certain people, and definitely not to anyone who needs a controlled plot or deeply fleshed-out characters.